Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hike #37: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, July 3, 2016
Estimated distance: 3.65 miles
Weather: 79°F, sunny
Resources:  McLean Game Refuge Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  views of Spring Pond and fields
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  37/52 hikes; 141.14/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I didn't plan, so did a tried and true hike today.

Spring Pond.

Water lilies.

Western Barndoor Hill off to the left.

Hike #35: Metacomet Trail (Rte 6 to Rattlesnake Mountain and Pinnacle Rock) - Farmington and Plainville, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, June 26, 2016
Estimated distance: 4.21 miles (although it felt twice that)
Weather: 82°F, sunny
Resources:  CFPA Interactive Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  view from Rattlesnake Mountain, people met along the way
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  35/52 hikes; 136.49/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

This relatively short hike kicked my butt.  I'm a slow hiker, but today I was REALLY slow.  It was probably the heat and not having had enough to drink that did me in.  I thank my hiking partner and her husband for being so patient.  Sorry guys!

Today's hike was Rattlesnake Mountain in Farmington to Pinnacle Rock just over the line in Plainville.  It is part of the New England/Metacomet Trail.  On the elevation chart above, the little hump in the middle is Pinnacle Rock.  This was an out and back hike, so the two sides should be a reflection of each other.

We started our hike on the side of Route 6 just east of Pinnacle Road in Farmington (there is a nearby Pinnacle Road in Plainville).  The parking area is a little west of where the Metacomet crosses the road, but a newer trail has been blazed from the parking area to the Metacomet.

My hiking partner pointed out all the poison ivy on the side of the trail, but thankfully someone had done a nice job of cutting it back.  My friend's husband was geocaching and all the rock formations along the way provided plenty of great hiding places.

Not long before reaching the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, we came to Will Warren's Den.  You can read about the den here and here.  This nice little video put together by Farmington Alternative High School shows just what you would have to do to get into the cave.  Maybe another time.

Will Warren's Den.
The views from the cliffs at Rattlesnake Mountain are worth the hike. Looking north, you can see the city of Hartford.

Hartford, just left of center.  (Looks better than camera shows).

Looking south, you can see East and West Peak at Hubbard Park in Meriden, and in front of those the Tilcon quarry in Plainville.  On the small hill just south, you can see the bare area of rock that is the Pinnacle.  We headed there next.

When you leave the cliffs, you end up making a fairly steep descent right underneath them.  One of the unique areas of this trail comes here, when you go through a small tunnel made by the rocks.  No standing up straight to go through.

The trail coming down from the cliffs.

Going through the tunnel.

Of course, this is when you realize you will be doing this in reverse if you haven't spotted a car at the other end of the trail.

After reaching the bottom, we crossed an area of weeds and shrubs under the power lines and started climbing up the other side.  We stepped to the side to make way for a couple of hikers coming from the other direction and took a few minutes to talk.  The man in the lead was 70 years old and on his final section of the Metacomet Trail.  He was on his way to Route 4 in Farmington.  Wow!  Congratulations to him and I hope I am able to do this when I am 70.

Looking back at radio towers that dominate the mountain.
We made it to Pinnacle Rock and I have to say it was a bit of a disappointment.  I am not sure why, but it just didn't have the same wow factor as Rattlesnake.  Maybe because it didn't feel as remote with the homes just below.  I would blame it on being tired and thirsty, but my hiking partners felt the same. 

On the way back to the car, I really struggled.  Even so, I was quite offended when I heard what the "woman" on the MapMyHike app had to say.  I was climbing back up to the cliffs at Rattlesnake and was not too far past the tunnel, when she said I had reached 3 miles and my split was "not moving".  Hey!  If she recognized that I had passed 3 miles, I must be moving a little bit!  (I wonder if there is another voice on the app.  It might have been easier to take from a nice Scotsman named "Angus").

We met a few other hikers on the return.  Our recommendation for most of them was to definitely hike to the Rattlesnake lookout, but that it wasn't really worth the extra effort to get to get to Pinnacle Rock.

Hike #34: Burr Pond - Torrington, CT

Date Hiked: Saturday, June 25, 2016
Estimated distance: 2.96 miles
Weather: 75°F, sunny
Resources:  Burr Pond State Park, Trail Map
Highlights of the trip:  view from peninsula, mountain laurel
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  34/52 hikes; 132.28/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

I was looking for a hike I hadn't done in awhile, so I chose Burr Pond.  Looking back on other blog posts, I can't believe the last time I was out here was 2013, and that was to kayak.

The mountain laurel were in full bloom.

More mountain laurel.
I parked at the boat launch and walked counter-clockwise around the pond on the Walcott Trail.  There were a few cars in the parking lot and people out in small aluminum boats doing some fishing.  I also saw some people in kayaks.  It was the perfect day to be out on the water.

Black "dot" in the water in the middle of the picture is a snapping turtle.

Glacial erratic.

I hadn't printed off the map (because how hard can it be to walk around a pond, right?), so I was a little confused by some of the other trails.  There is a blue and white blazed trail that goes off just before you get to the glacial erratic.  This trail loops back around to the Walcott Trail and also connects to the John Muir Trail which takes you over to Sunny Brook State Park. 

At the glacial erratic there is a blue and yellow trail that goes off to a point of rock.  I think it just ends here, but I started to wonder if it led to the peninsula.  I knew the trail to the peninsula was also blue and yellow, but the trail here seemed to be very steep and I am not sure it was "sanctioned".  I don't remember taking this steep trail the last time I was here.  I decided to go back to the main trail and continued until I found the trail to the peninsula.

It is definitely worth taking the trail down to the peninsula.  It offers wonderful views of the pond and some of the little islands that are scattered about.

Heading out to the peninsula.

From the end of the peninsula, you can see across to the beach at Burr Pond State Park.  I could hear the kids playing in the water.  Unfortunately, the day after I was here, a little boy drowned.

Swamp azalea.

In addition to the swimming area, the state park has picnic areas and they even rent kayaks.

Kayaker headed into the inlet near the picnic area.
I passed the dam and saw a group of people fishing.  The water here was low enough you could have walked across the dam, but I kept going and took the bridge into the picnic area of the state park.  I crossed the driveway and continued around the pond to the boat launch parking area.  There were a few more cars in the parking lot and some guys were launching a boat that I thought seemed to have a motor that was a little large and unwise for this pond.  It is pretty obvious that there are rocks all over the place, so I assume they knew what they were doing.

This was a relatively short, but very nice hike.  If you go, be prepared for some muddy areas even if it hasn't rained for awhile.  I also recommend kayaking at Burr Pond.  It is pretty quiet and, other than the state park, there is no development.  It is especially pretty on those sunny autumn days where you can view the foliage from the water.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Hike #33: McLean Game Refuge - Granby, CT

Date Hiked: Saturday, June 18, 2016
Estimated distance: 2.76 miles
Weather: 80°F, partly cloudy
Resources:  McLean Game Refuge, Map,
Highlights of the trip:  milk snake, kingfisher
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  33/52 hikes; 129.32/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

Just a short hike today in the refuge.  I did one of my usual loops and, after going up the hill past Kettle Pond and taking the trail that skirts the field, I walked by a "stick".  Wait a second.  Let me turn around and look again.  As you can see below, it was not a stick, but a snake.

It did not move as I approached.  Was it dead?  I crouched nearby and watched and eventually tossed a few pine needles in its direction.  It "rattled" its tail.  It is not a rattlesnake, but the vibration of the tail must have been hitting some dried leaves and it certainly gave me pause.  Checked - no rattle on tail.


I walked around to the other side of the snake and now I could see it kind of roll a little.  I am not sure why it was not moving away from me.  I couldn't see any injury.  I decided to let it be.  After comparing my pictures to a reference book, I believe it is a milksnake (see the "V" on the back of its head).  Here is a great guide to snakes in CT.

A few pink waterlilies.
As I walked along Spring Pond, I flushed three kingfishers from their perches.  Two flew across the pond, but the third was probably trying to figure out why the other two flew off and only went as far as the end of a log below the trail.  I tried to get a picture, but the camera on my phone doesn't zoom as much as I'd like.

Mountain laurel in bloom around Spring Pond.
The snake and the kingfisher reminded me that even for short hikes I should at least take my phone so I can take pictures if something interesting shows up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hike #32: Sessions Woods WMA - Burlington, CT

Date Hiked: Sunday, June 12, 2016
Estimated distance: 6.89 miles (2.87 of which was on the Tunxis Yellow-dot and Black-dot trails)
Weather: 80°F, partly cloudy, temperature started dropping as wind picked up
Resources:  Sessions Woods WMA Trail Map, CFPA Tunxis Hiking Map - Burlington re-route
Highlights of the trip:  Tunxis black dot trail, wildflowers, beaver marsh
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  32/52 hikes; 126.56/250 miles; 31.37/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

An excellent hike today at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area!  I hadn't been here in awhile and I forgot all that it had to offer.

My hiking partner and I were joined by her husband, who likes to geocache.  There were quite a few caches to find in the area and he found the first ones when we took the short Forest Meadow Trail. 

Sessions Woods Trail Map

Then we followed the Beaver Pond Trail and he found another cache at the junction with the Crosscut Trail.  That one took a little hunting, but he eventually found it.  He was going to continue on the Crosscut Trail while we kept to the Beaver Pond Trail, but his trail became impassable before too long and he caught up to us.

Sheep laurel (Lambkill)

We decided to back-track and pick up the Tunxis Yellow-dot trail, which would take us around the far side of the beaver pond.  This was a fantastic decision.  This trail is quite different from the wide cindered trails you find in Sessions Woods.  Unlike the fairly heavily traveled Sessions Woods trails (a lot of joggers and dog walkers), we had the Tunxis Trails to ourselves.  Another cache was found on the far side of the pond and we continued to loop around and picked up the Tunxis Black-dot trail.

Pink corydalis (aka harlequin corydalis, rock harlequin, pale corydalis)
The Black-dot Trail was the most impressive area.  A lot of rocks and caves that my pictures just can't do justice to.  Very rugged terrain which makes it more interesting.

Looking back up the trail from which we came.

We re-entered Sessions Woods at the camping area and took the Beaver Pond Trail back in a clockwise direction toward the beaver pond.  My friend's husband left us to continue on while he searched for a couple of caches.  We told him we would continue and maybe stop at the waterfall and fire tower before heading toward the beaver pond.  It had already been a decent hike, so when we saw the warning about the trail to the waterfall being in disrepair, we decided to skip it.  As we came to the trail for the fire tower, we skipped that, too.  So, we went straight to the beaver pond, noticing two turtles on the path along the way.  They had probably left the marsh to come up and lay their eggs.

There were both pink and yellow water lilies, though my photos show them as white.

The beaver pond is my favorite part of Sessions Woods.  We walked across the boardwalk to the viewing area and then found a place on a rock to sit, relax, and look at the pond.  There were a lot of high bush blueberries and huckleberries.  Not ripe yet, though.  The water was much higher than I remember it being the last time I was here.  Some extra planks had been out down to allow access to the boardwalk as the start of the boardwalk is under water.

We thought we were sitting in a place that would make it easy for my friend's husband to find us, but I guess not.  It had become really windy and after about 45 minutes, we decided we had better get up and head back to the car.  We ran into him on the trail headed back out.  He had gone to the car looking for us after going to the waterfall and fire tower and passing the pond and not seeing us.

Almost 7 miles of hiking today, and probably closer to 9 miles for my friend's husband. (Sorry.)  We started our hike around 11 a.m. and finished around 3:30.  As a bonus at the end of the hike, we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and got drinks for the ride home.  An excellent day of hiking. I'd highly recommend taking the Tunxis Trail around the outside of Sessions Woods.

Hike #31: New England Trail - Suffield, CT to Agawam, MA

Date Hiked: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Estimated distance: 4.88 miles (although my GPS says 5.22, we had started driving down the road before I turned it off)
Weather: 62°F, overcast then some rain
Resources: CT NET: Section 21 (Metacomet Trail), MA NET: Section 01 (Metacomet-Monadnock Trail)
Highlights of the trip:  bog
Progress toward 2016 hiking goals:  31/52 hikes; 119.67/250 miles; 28.5/25 miles on Tunxis Trail

One of my old roommates, who shared a CIGNA house with me in Bloomfield before I got married,  contacted me to see if I wanted to go on a hike.  We ended up choosing to hike a part of the New England Trail (Metacomet and Monadnock) that I hadn't done before.  We left a car on Route 57 near the Southwick/Agawam line (huge parking area across from Agawam Bowmen's Club) and took the other down to Phelps Road in Suffield to start our hike.

I was glad I had looked at the information on the New England Trail website before we left so that I knew we would be following the blue trail in CT and the white trail in MA.  When we started our hike there were two trails, and at least I knew to take the blue one.

We climbed up and eventually came to a look out.  A beautiful view except for the huge power lines.  The picture below is my attempt to get a view with minimal power line intrusion, but I probably should have just taken one power lines and all so you could see what it really looked like.

We knew when we started the hike it was supposed to rain later in the day, but it started raining about half-way through our hike.  Much earlier than we had anticipated.  Thank goodness it wasn't a heavy rain (yet) and for the most part we were under the trees.

As we came out to Rising Corner Road in Southwick, we felt like we were walking through someone's yard.  There is a kiosk and parking for hikers in the field across the street.  Walking in between two other properties, we soon came to the bog I had read about.  There was an old wheelbarrow full of scraps of metal and, as we stopped to put on more bug repellent, I tripped over a metal rod that was sticking out of the ground and then managed to stab my leg with it.  Thankfully, it was nothing more than a surface scratch, but be careful there!

A boardwalk of sorts has been built across the bog.  It is not fancy, and seems to be built layer upon layer.  It needs to be high in order to make it passable.  There is no way you could cross the bog without it, so thank you to the folks that built it.


Once across the bog, we were back under the cover of the trees.  Thankfully, it hadn't rained heavily.  We were wet, but not soaked.  We got to the car and headed back to the other car at Phelps Road.  It started raining a little more.  We went our separate ways and within a mile, the sky opened up.  It was crazy.  I had the wipers on full speed and I just started laughing.  We got lucky on this one!